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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From his Preface to his Collected Poems
By Pierre Jean de Béranger (1780–1857)
 
I HAVE treated it [the revolution of 1830] as a power which might have whims one should be in a position to resist. All or nearly all my friends have taken office. I have still one or two who are hanging from the greased pole. I am pleased to believe that they are caught by the coat-tails, in spite of their efforts to come down. I might therefore have had a share in the distribution of offices. Unluckily I have no love for sinecures, and all compulsory labor has grown intolerable to me, except perhaps that of a copying clerk. Slanderers have pretended that I acted from virtue. Pshaw! I acted from laziness. That defect has served me in place of merits; wherefore I recommend it to many of our honest men. It exposes one, however, to curious reproaches. It is to that placid indolence that severe critics have laid the distance I have kept myself from those of my honorable friends who have attained power. Giving too much honor to what they choose to call my fine intellect, and forgetting too much how far it is from simple good sense to the science of great affairs, these critics maintain that my counsels might have enlightened more than one minister. If one believes them, I, crouching behind our statesmen’s velvet chairs, would have conjured down the winds, dispelled the storms, and enabled France to swim in an ocean of delights. We should all have had liberty to sell, or rather to give away, but we are still rather ignorant of the price. Ah! my two or three friends who take a songwriter for a magician, have you never heard, then, that power is a bell which prevents those who set it ringing from hearing anything else? Doubtless ministers sometimes consult those at hand: consultation is a means of talking about one’s self which is rarely neglected. But it will not be enough even to consult in good faith those who will advise in the same way. One must still act: that is the duty of the position. The purest intentions, the most enlightened patriotism, do not always confer it. Who has not seen high officials leave a counselor with brave intentions, and an instant after return to him, from I know not what fascination, with a perplexity that gave the lie to the wisest resolutions? “Oh!” they say, “we will not be caught there again! what drudgery!” The more shamefaced add, “I’d like to see you in my place!” When a minister says that, be sure he has no longer a head. There is indeed one of them, but only one, who, without having lost his head, has often used this phrase with the utmost sincerity; he has therefore never used it to a friend.  1
 
 
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